Music To Write To: Rip Tide

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Vance Joy’s Rip Tide has been stuck in my head for the past few days. The song is catchy, entertaining, and has some pretty informing lyrics. However, what’s really got stuck in my head is the music video for the song. It has a great Wes Anderson, Alfred Hitchcock, Avant Garde mix. The images are haunting and pass by the screen in seconds, yet each scene tells it’s own story that adds to the entirety of the whole video. The music video for Rip Tide is what music videos, in my opinion, are meant to be. Not just a video of bands playing music and partying with people, but a short film set to a specific song. Check it out and let me know what you think. Is it as great as I think it is?

Looking for something else that is short yet entertaining? Check out my recent short story ebook, Tim and The Breakup of Impending Doom. It’s a story about a guy, Tim, who has just been through a recent breakup. Now he’s got a hangover, is missing his girl, and, oh, the world is about to end. Find it now, only at Amazon.com.

3 Things: Animated Short Films

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Animated short films are very high in my favorite art forms. They can tell stories that ordinarily wouldn’t get told in a visual medium. I’ve wanted to do this post for a while, after seeing Glen Keane’s newest short film Duet. There are many, many short films that I’ve come to love, everything from old Disney shorts like The Band Concert and the Fantasia shorts, to goofy (and sometimes disturbing) stuff like Cyanide And Happiness (click the link to see why you should never touch my beard).

In that spirit, I’d like to share three recent-ish shorts that I’m quite fond of. Ready?

The Meaning Of Life

Don Hertzfeldt. If you’ve seen any of his work before, you won’t need any primer. The Meaning of Life is somewhat abstract, but is important because of the perspective it gives. Also, there’s the sheer joy of watching Herzfeldt’s characters, who are little more than stick figures yet move with fluidity that is mesmerizing at times.

Adam and Dog

Three reasons this is here: 1)Music. 2) Backgrounds. Seriously, wow. And 3) dog.

Paperman

(No video to embed as there isn’t a great quality free video to be had, but you can purchase Paperman for $1.99 in various outlets.)

Okay you probably know of this one, even if you barely pay attention to short films. Doesn’t matter. I love this one regardless. It is a shame that John Karhs moved on from Disney, but hopefully that means he’ll be able to direct more original work elsewhere. In the meantime, here’s hoping the style and technology employed in Paperman makes an appearance in a feature someday.

Have any animated shorts you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about more. There are thousands out there after all, and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Comic Corner: Top Three By Alan Moore

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It’s been a bit since I’ve done a comic corner, and I’ve been seeing a lot of search hits for my last comic related blog post on Superman comics. So, I figured it was high time that I write another one.

When I was a kid reading comics I thought that the only thing in the comics world was Marvel, DC, and Star Trek comic adaptions. That was before I first read Watchmen. A high school teacher lent me a copy, and it changed the way that I looked at comics forever. From that point on I was reading titles outside of the main two publishing houses. Sin City, Man Called Kev, Local, Y: The Last Man — I wouldn’t have read any of these if it weren’t for the writing of Alan Moore. Moore didn’t just change the way that I look at comics, he changed the way that everyone looked at superheroes and comic books in general. The way that he put his own spin on titles like Batman and Swamp Thing and then went on to change the mythos of the superhero in Watchmen changed comics in general. And changed them for the better. If you haven’t read any of Moore’s stuff, I have listed here a short primer of three of my favorite Alan Moore titles.

The Killing Joke

In the pantheon of super villains, the Joker ranks among the most devious and brutal. Before Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger approached the character in The Dark Knight, Alan Moore took his turn at the villain. The Killing Joke not only shows the brutality of the Joker, his disdain for Batman, but it also gives the reader a pretty good origin story. Put it all together and you have a short, one off comic, that shows you the dynamic created between two of the DC universes’ best known characters. Also, the end of the story has a pretty good easter egg that may or may not be the best ending to any comic book ever.

Watchmen

When you think about superheroes in the 21st century, Watchmen should be the first comic that comes to mind. With Watchmen, Moore broke the old stereotype of the faultless superhero. Instead of being superheroes first and people second, they were now people with flaws that showed through into their superhero identities. Watchmen showed the reader superheroes who were deeply flawed, and superheroes who were more involved with themselves than with the world that they were helping. It can be said that if Watchmen hadn’t be written then comics like Sin City, Spawn, and many others would never have existed.

V for Vendetta

Think 1984 on steroids. The world has gone to shit, and the new UK government is trying to keep everything together. Concentration camps, secret police, and state media are all common place in this post-apocolyptic tale from Moore. Everything looks like it will be status quo, with the government suppressing any dissent — then along come V. V is a champion of freedom and anarchy and a construct of Moore’s political opinions.

Interested in apocalyptic stories? Try out my newest story just published on Amazon, Tim and the Breakup of Impending Doom!

 

Should Writing Be A Business?

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Yesterday, Andrew had a great rundown of the new Amazon Kindle Unlimited service, which if you haven’t heard is Netflixizing the book industry. I’ve tried out KU, and I especially like the potential it has for audiobooks, which are otherwise expensive.

Andrew made a point to talk about how KU works from an author’s perspective. It’s this angle that has me most concerned. Royalties become murkier in the Unlimited world. The reader pays Amazon for the ability to download books, then Amazon decides what each authors gets from their coffers. A author doesn’t get paid just because someone downloads their book. They have to read (or scroll) a certain percentage in order for it to count.

What?

This is new territory. Things like Netflix pay studios for licensing rights. They get a contract that says they can stream a movie or TV show for a certain amount of time. I can understand that, because it is just like TV stations have operated for a while. KU doesn’t work that way. You grant Amazon the right to distribute your work. For a few extra benefits, you can sign up for KDP Select. When you do, you grant Amazon the right to distribute your work through their Unlimited program.

What is the benefit to the author? You do not receive a licensing fee. You get the chance at a piece of the pot that Amazon sets aside. Some might say you get the opportunity for exposure, if you’re a new or little-known author. I skeptical on the results. A few authors might catch on this way, but for the vast majority of the thousands of indie publishers, the results will be minimal.

And that feeds into a greater issue that I’ve discussed on the blog before. Why do writers write? Specifically, why does the modern, independent, self-publishing writer do what he or she does? I’ll tell you what my goals are. The two big ones are to be a good writer and to make a living doing it. Simple, right? But I often see these two at odds. I look at some of the success stories of self-publishing and I see authors that are making good money while writing, well, crap. One sci-fi book in particular that I’ve recently read was a grab-bag of stupid, but is consistently at the top of the charts. Conversely, the few self-published books I’ve encountered that I consider quality have not, as far as I know, sniffed the upper echelons of the Kindle rankings. This could be my tastes that are the problem, that my measure of quality is off. Nevertheless, I aspire to create vital works, so what does it say that I’m throwing my lot in with the self-published crowd and attempting to be commercially viable?

To be the best writer I can, I would love to dedicate all my energy to writing. But I can’t. I have a day job. I have to edit my works, I have to be active on social media and write blogs, I have to work with artists, I have to produce the ebook, write blurbs, and manage my titles. All of this takes away from time I could spend honing craft and perfecting stories. Is it possible to become a good writer while also being a successful self-published author? I don’t know.

Respect for self-publishing is increasing. Indies aren’t lazy, they work hard. But are the stories as good as they can be? What do you think?

 

Amazon Unlimited and the Ten Percent Scroll

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There’s a lot of news about Amazon Unlimited going around right now. Between the worries about the program as a whole, the perhaps lack of innovation in the product, and the ongoing fight between Amazon and the Big 5 publishers (and their refusal to participate in the program at all), there is a lot of news out there about Amazon Unlimited.

But Amazon Unlimited and what it means to consumers is not what I want to talk about today. What I want to talk about it the payment system for authors who self publish and have their books downloaded through Amazon Unlimited. The majority of the 600,000 plus titles that are available on Amazon Unlimited are titles that have been published by self published authors. And these authors will only get a payout if their books are downloaded and the first ten percent of their book is read.

That’s right. Just downloading a self published author’s book does not necessarily mean that the author will get paid. You also need to read through at least the first ten percent  of the book — or just scroll through, but we’ll get to that.

Being a self published author is a hard, low paying endeavor. There is little more in it for the author than the happiness that comes with putting one of your works out there to be enjoyed by the world. Often times a self published book is rarely downloaded (quick plug! go check out my self published book Tim and the Break Up of Impending Doom), and there is little real payment for what you have put all your hard work into.

I’m not against the practice by Amazon. They are a business and they have built a business model that they think works. It is unfortunate that this business model has been built on top of the thousands of authors who publish on Amazon, but that’s just the way it is. People won’t stop publishing on Amazon, and Amazon won’t stop practices that it deems to be in its best interests. (Plus, we tricky authors have maddening methods in order to get paid!)

What do you do about it, though? Well, I have an idea. It is my vision that if you have Amazon Unlimited (or Lending Library — which has the same ten percent in order to get paid practice), if you download a book you scroll through the first ten percent as soon as its finished downloading. That way, even if the book turns out to not be your thing, if you get busy and aren’t able to finish the book, or whatever the reason may be, at least the author will get paid. At least the person who put all that hard work forward will get a payment for their book being downloaded. And, if you really enjoy the book, maybe consider outright buying the book instead of just getting it through Amazon Unlimited. That way, you are giving the author their full royalties. If not, at least scroll the ten percent — and spread the word with #scrolltenpercent on twitter, Facebook, and all the other social media sites — and help some poor self published authors out!

Music To Write To: Gone To Wonder Edition

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Today’s MtWt is a song that routinely appears in the ‘soundtracks’ I assemble for my various projects. It is a song that resonates with me, clearly. From their album Ganging Up On The Sun, it’s Guster’s ‘Lightning Rod’.

Actually a lot of Guster songs end up on my playlists. Particularly, ‘Empire State’, ‘Hang On’, ‘Keep It Together’, ‘Come Downstairs And Say Hello’ (which was freaking incredible live with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra!), and ‘Architects and Engineers’. These songs line up with characters and themes in my works like few others can. ‘Lightning Rod’ feels like a very lonely song. It’s an odds-stacked-against-you, back-to-the-wall, facing-the-storm-alone moment that fits perfectly the journey of my main character, Wendy Danek.

Gone To Wonder Episode One: Absent Hero is coming soon. Later this week I hope to share the cover art. In the meantime, enjoy the tunes.

Music To Write To: Tom Traubert’s Blues

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There is just something about Tom Waits. His voice is incredibly haunting, his lyrics are always so familiar yet just out of reach, and you can feel the emotion emanating from every note and chord in every song.

Tom Traubert’s Blues (Waltzing Matilda) gets me into an emotional state that preps me for some deep writing. It’s not the best music to write action scenes to, but when I was writing my recent ebook, Tim and the Breakup of Impending Doom, this song put me in the right frame of mind.

Tom Waits is the kind of artist who, even though his songs often times come off surprising, can still inspire with his voice and imagery.